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In Machiavelli’s Art of War we are told of the good man, who seems to be one that practices war, but does not make it his art.  We are also told that the current time is one of great corruption, so it would seem like one that had practiced war enough that it had become an art would be very useful and would be able to keep what was his in order.  It seems, however, that this is not the case in the eyes of Fabrizio Colonna. For Fabrizio, war “ is an art by means of which men cannot live honestly in every time, it cannot be used as an art except by a republic or a kingdom. And  the one and the other of these, when it was well ordered, never consented to any of its citizens or subjects using it as an art, nor did any good man ever practice it as his particular art” (I.51).  It would seem that allowing a republic or kingdom to use war as its art would lead automatically to tyranny, however, Fabrizio seems to think that the fear that would be instilled in the people would be enough to keep them honest while keeping the governmental body intact.

According to Fabrizio the reason, the art of war can only be practiced on a large scale is “ he will never be judged good who engages in a career by which,  by wanting to draw utility from it in everytime, he must be rapacious, fraudulent, violent and have many qualities that of necessity make him bad” (I.52).  So the key to a republic or kingdom seems to be that it has good citizens, or that the citizenry is numerous enough that the traits that make them bad are distributed enough that they are not dangerous to the kingdom or republic. Fabrizio also seems to think that the reason the heads of the kingdom or republic don’t turn tyrannical is also tied up in this, as he says, “nor can the men who use it as an art, the great as well as the small, be made otherwise, because this art does not nourish them in peace. Hence they are necessitated either to plan that there not be peace or to succeed so much in times of war that they can nourish themselves in peace. And neither one of these two thoughts dwells in a good man” (I.52-53).

So not only is it important that the attributes that make man a warrior are well distributed throughout the kingdom or republic, it is also key that the head of this kingdom or republic be a good man by nature and those, apparently, come from extended periods of peace, as Fabrizio says, “ from wanting to be able to nourish oneself in every time arise the robberies, the acts of violence, and the assassinations that such soldiers do to friends as well as enemies. And from not wanting peace to come the deceptions that the captains use on those who hire them so that war may last. If peace does not indded come, often it happens that the heads, being deprived of their stipends and living, set up a flag of fortune without restraint and pillage a province without any mercy” (I,53).

This essentially means, that in order to have a good man that would also make a good leader, peace must occur because after long periods of fighting a turmoil, war becomes the art of the people and a solid kingdom or republic must be lead by good men, who by nature do not make war their art.  It seems as though Fabrizio thinks that during long periods of war, and for a short period of time after one of these periods, there cannot be a good man at the helm of a country as he is used to war, and has likely been involved in it, and therefore is not a good man as it is all he has known.  He says, “ if one were to consider their life and the order of that republic, one would see in it many things not impossible to introduce into a city where there was still something good” (I,31). He goes on to suggest these remedies, “ to honor and reward the virtues, not to despise poverty, to esteem the models and orders of military discipline, to constrain the citizens to love one another, to live without sects, to esteem the private less than the public, and other similar things that could easily accompany our times” (I,33).  This begins to sound like the third city of Plato’s Republic, as in order to implement some of these things there will have to be strict guidelines that are presided over by a group of people.  These remedies also seem to suggest that many things will have to made common, since that would be the only way to live without sects and to esteem the public more than the private.  It doesn’t seem that Fabrizio find this a problem, as he says, “ these modes are not difficult to persuade [men of] when one thinks about them much and they are entered into by due degrees. For in them truth appears so much that every common talent can be capable of it”(I,34).  He says something about leaders that make the remedies seem acceptable and not tyrannical, “ whoever orders that thing plants trees under the shade of which one resides more happy and more glad than under this” (I,35).  With this Fabrizio spins the tyrannical seeming remedies much more accessible, and also paints the leader that implements them in a positive light.

It seems that for Fabrizio the key to a good man is extended periods of peace, but also a leader that seems, and not necessarily is, a good man. Without a leader that is at least perceived to be good, the kingdom or republic wouldn’t be possible, nor would a good man.

19 Responses to “Is the Good Man just a good speaker?”

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